HAVANA TIMES — Every human living on this planet knows that education is free in Cuba. And I know because I heard the Undefeated Comandante say it 272,397 times if I didn’t count them wrong, and I shouldn’t have because my education was free.
It was a hobby of mine to count his cadenced statements when he would delight us with simultaneous interventions on every TV channel for 3 or 4 informative hours where we found out just how well off we were. I remember that unforgettable night when he spoke to us about the price of Major League Baseball tickets, with one of those tickets you could pay to go to the Cuban National Series for a whole year he used to say, how right he was my God, I tell you my fellow countrymen.
This youthful obsession of mine with the motor-mouth Leader’s speech convinced me of two things, first that he personally paid for all of our education out of his own pocket and he only asked us for our absolute loyalty in return, secondly, that it was only in Communism that parents didn’t have to directly pay for their children’s education. Later on, I discovered that things weren’t really like this at all, but I believe that the poor Comandante died still believing this.
However, I didn’t pay much attention to these revolutionary achievements while I was studying. My generation was able to enjoy sports training, language classes, hobby clubs, summer camps, everything and everything was free, but we didn’t appreciate it, human beings are very ungrateful, especially the new socialist man.
Now, it’s my children who enjoy the Revolution’s free achievements.
My son is in the 4th grade, he has already had 7 teachers, all for free and nearly all of them can write without spelling mistakes, noooo I’m exaggerating. OK, seriously, something tells me that the quality of our education system has declined a little. This year my kid learned that Hatuey fought for Cuba’s freedom, he learned this from the mouth of his seventh teacher. Graduate Yurysleysys.
One of the teachers opened up a “small school”, a kind of private academy where children go over subjects in the afternoon. As education continues to be free but the quality… and because we are picky parents, we send him to this “small school” three hours a week so that he can learn the basics, this costs 250 pesos per month.
My wife and I are a couple of bourgeois people and so we have our kid doing two sports, chess and martial arts, between them both that’s 4 hours per week and they cost us 250 pesos each.
Not satisfied with that and on the brink of crisis, we have decided to send him to learn English, he’s on the school’s program since last year but they have never had a teacher. These are another two hours a week and another 250 pesos.
My girl is still in pre-school, may Marx bless her, and we have a free kindergarten which we haven’t really been able to enjoy. It closed last February because of a blockage in a bathroom toilet, it reopened in August when the State fixed it for free, it took this long to fix because of a shortage of materials due to the blockade.
Then Hurricane Irma came along, the damage was minimal, but surrounding groves are in such a state that if you look at them they’ll come crashing down so they wisely ordered the kindergarten to be closed again from September until the free and efficient People’s Power can organize men to come and prune the trees.
To be fair, the State didn’t leave us high and dry, they gave us a place at another kindergarten, it’s just that instead of being 3 blocks away it’s now 3 kilometers away because there aren’t any spaces at nearby ones, but because we are a pair of spoiled brats, we didn’t like it and we decided to send the girl to the woman who used to look after her before we were given her kindergarten space. This costs another 250 pesos per month.
As my girl is a Cuban who likes to dance, we have her at a Beginner’s Art Academy, and you knows what it costs? Yup, 250 pesos.
On top of this, let’s add the food extras we give the boy, neurotic parents we are in the end for wanting him to eat properly. These extras cost 20 pesos per day between the snack and protein at lunch, this adds up to another 400 pesos extra.
Adding all of this up, which I know how to do and I learned this for free, my children’s free education costs, without going into greater details, around 1900 pesos per month.
Education is free, but somehow my crazy wife and I spend almost 4 times a primary teacher’s salary on it.
I shudder to think that my daughter will soon start at her free primary school, then we will be well over and above, just in education expenses, 5 times the average Cuban salary, and that’s us living in a low middle class, a really low middle class neighborhood.
Viva la Revolucion and its super expensive free achievements!
P.S. Everything I’ve written here, which you have read for free, is true, except for the teacher’s name, we’ve decided not to learn them anymore as they don’t last very long…
*I’ve used a pseudonym because I’m afraid that my humble internet account might be taken away from me or that I might be harassed financially. This might be a fear without grounds, but I don’t know for certain and as I’m not brave, I avoid the risk because what I most fear is losing the mask that I put on in front of my beloved and “revolutionary” grandfather.